Since the departure of Maya Rudolph, on SNL, in 2007, the show hasn’t had a black female actress since. In the past 6 years, they’ve picked up 7 females (6 white and 1 Iranian-American) and 10 males (9 white and 1 black).
Many have been taken aback by Kenan Thompson’s, SNL actor, comment on black comediennes, saying, “[SNL] just never finds the ones that are ready.” Dungey and Amani Starnes decided to make a vlog confronting his idea.
Azie Mira Dungey, writer and main actress, of Ask a Slave, a comedy web series about a housemaid of George Washington, commented on black female comediennes. In particular, she pointed out that many aren’t being represented on television.
She talked about the certain stereotypes that are portrayed of black women in media. “Ghetto and angry ghetto, sassy ghetto, loud ghetto.”
In Kerry Washington’s appearance on SNL, she played Michelle Obama, Beyonce, a ghetto assistant, a “incompetent” Nigerian Princess, and a Brooklyn school teacher.
Although used as a laugh tactic, SNL admitted, “The producers at ‘Saturday Night Life’ would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable talent,” they continued, “and also because ‘SNL’ does not does not have a black woman in the cast… As for the latter reason, we agree that this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future… unless of course we fall in love with another white guy first.”
After a bit of dialogue, they have Al Sharpton walk out and say, “… What have we learned from this sketch? As usual: nothing,” and he continues to open the show.
I had a conversation with an SLAMedia writer, Dejah Harley, and we extrapolated the idea of the typical black woman compared to us. We’ve concluded that we are “properly” talking black girls always considered “white”, unable to efficiently speak “Black” English, and cannot dance like the black girls on the internet.
Olivia Pope, the main character is Scandal, is a total 180 in terms of how African American women are portrayed in media. She’s involved in interracial relationships, she holds some type of stronghold of power and influence, and she is in demand of clients.
Because there are so few women of color in media, Dungey and Starnes talked about their role models: Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, Dawn French, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
When SNL scouts, they go to the well known comedy schools, that are expensive to attend. Because comedy and acting have a very low rates of success, the argument could be that the few of African Americans who do go to college would not invest in something with no probable future of return, considering there isn’t a variety of characters women of color can represent.
Another side could be, it’s not an attractive field because those who are not represented as actresses or writers, do not want to be involved.
“If you say that women can’t be funny, or black women can’t be funny, clearly you haven’t done your homework. You’re not looking. And obviously people like SNL are not putting those women in front of you.” Starnes said.